Dr. Ebrahimi's Article: Why should manager know about information technology
Read this article and discuss it in the discussion then write one page summary as assignment.
The International Journal of Applied Management and Technology (2005), Vol 3, Num 2
Why Managers Should Become Better Acquainted
With Programming Issues, Web Source Code, and
Alireza Ebrahimi, State University of New York,
College at Old Westbury, USA
There has been a controversial debate over how well managers need to acquainted with the
area of information technology, especially about what managers need to know of programming
and understanding of web source code. Information is an indispensable key to business success
and Information Technology (IT) facilitates the ability of business to use information to its
advantage. It is the programs (software) that drive technology, the web page presents the
business enterprise to everyone. In the heart of every business there also are managers
responsible for keeping the records of performance, and using the records to promote efficiency,
discipline, and to get the job done. Today’s in-depth involvement of technology in the
marketplace has created a strong correlation between IT and managers. Over time, the bond
between a manager and IT is becoming stronger, signaling the need for more interaction and
understanding of both technical capabilities and business goals on the part of managers.
This paper posits that managers need to know more about information technology and
actively participate in the IT decision-making team. Furthermore, it suggests how managers can
have incrementally to acquire some elementary knowledge of programming issues, what shows
on the web, what is behind the web (source code), and what is placed on the server (database). In
a dynamic market where changes are made in nanoseconds. It is rewarding and may soon become
almost mandatory that a multi-talented manager will have to deal with change, to add or supervise
addition of pragmatic programming, and web update the web in order to be competitive. Key to
the process is the increasing communication and interaction between managers and programmers.
The benefit of understanding the elementary steps of programming and web technology is that it
will allow a manager to play a larger role in communicating and delegating responsibility with
confidence, and competence thus leading to cost reduction and better short- and long-term risk
Technology, Managers, Programming, Web, Source Code, Manager Update, Crisis and Chaos,
Virus, Y2K, E-Business, Software Engineering, Risk Management.
In 1982, Robert Benjamin forecasted the state of IT in the year of 1990 stating that all
aspects of software will improve steadily, and the demand for software will be so great as to
appear infinite (Benjamin,1992). Now, nearly fifteen years later, we are experiencing the
fulfillment of these critical IT predictions, and the far more fundamental knowledge and
coordination of managers and the programmers they must direct.
Why is it crucial for a manager to keep up to date with programming issues and web
technology? One may assumes it is not part of a manager’s job description since programming is
associated with complex theories, mathematics, and gibberish code. Furthermore many also
assume there are mathematical formulas and theoretical concepts are involved in creating a
webpage (front end) or in a web server program (back end)? However the technology and its
programming have become less cumbersome than a decade ago, the problems can be easily
worked around by some explanation. We do not suggest that managers become programmers
who know details of syntax and semantic jargon of each programming language construct.
Rather they should become aware of the fundamental changes in programming and be able to
identify simple programming concepts such as input/output, decision-making, repetition, and file
handling. Managers need to be updated, to identify new simple concept of how to use
programming, communicate with programmers employed by their corporations and how to take
advantage of web technology. Similarly the programmers and web page specialists need to have
a through idea of the purpose production and Modus vivendi of the company. Furthermore, a
manager may be able to visualize a concept as to how it is used or should be used.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 100 million
information users in the U.S. More interestingly, Sutcliffeis estimates that by 2005 in the U.S.
alone, there would be 55 million end-user developers in addition to 2.75 million professional
software developers. From the above estimate, one can conclude that one out of five people in
the U.S. population (295 million) has to deal with programming issues and write some sort of
program. Sutcliffe and Mehandjiev describe that End-user development is about taking control -
not only of personalizing computer applications (end-user computing) and writing programs, but
of designing new computer-based applications without ever seeing the underlying program code
A program is a set of instructions telling the computer what to do. Programming is
straightforward with three foundations: Sequence, Decision-making, and Repetition, all known
as control flow. Each instruction in a control flow interacts with the memory bank for storing,
recalling, and modifying one value at a time. The simplicity of a program’s control flow can be
explained by comparing it to the flow of water cascading down step by step like a waterfall. A
waterfall that starts at the top and flows directly to the bottom is sequential control flow, with
only one path. If the water flow reaches a point where it can go either one way or the other, this
point represents a decision. If the water flows back to a point of origin and cycles, this is
repetition. Before each cycle begins, there is a decision on whether to repeat the cycle or to exit.
At each step of the flow there is interaction with the memory and, possibly, with the user.
With this limited programming knowledge which includes: putting instructions into
order; input/output; making decisions; repetition; and file handling, one can accomplish what is
necessary you need to do and better communicate (Ebrahimi, 2003). Given a limited knowledge
of programming, how have senior managers and executives been able to show competence in
understanding the process of programming? What would be the role of the managers in this?
Most senior managers and executives don’t understand software because they haven’t had the
experience of direct involvement in a software development project, however when they went
through the replication during an experiment they were able to gain a sense and feeling of how a
software product is created and how it interacts. Armour has found it "fun and interesting" to see
executives code. (Armour, 2004).
Programming and Language Problems
Although programming languages have changed only slightly over the last fifty years, the
textual representation of control flow makes it hard to follow the course of a program and
understand what is happening. A program in execution does not necessarily follow the order of
the program written by a programmer. Similarly, arcane notations used for language constructs
are contributing to programming errors themselves. Some new language constructs are more
confusing, unfriendly compared to their predecessors and these new constructs are justified
based on personal preference. The bottom-line is that not much has changed with regard to
programming and its languages. Is this good or bad news? For those who believe in technology
and change, it is bad news. The criticism that programming and programming languages have
fallen behind the technology they have created leads one to wonder whether the programming
can meet the needs of the unit it is supposed to streamline and improve. The good news is that
due to the relative stability of programming and languages, it is possible to encourage managers
to take advantage of the situation and deal with it. The problems of arcane notations and
programming errors still persist and there is hope that a big change will eventually come
(Ebrahimi, 1992). Yet, to be "ironed out" the wrinkles and quirks need to be worked out by the
team of managers of businesses and programmers and web workers.
Technology Crisis and Some historical Lessons
After the introduction of Integrated Circuits (IC’s), programmers became free from
dealing with the small size memory associated with transistors. Programmers soon could write
many large programs without much restriction. With this overabundance of programming, the
situation went so out of hand it caused chaos. As a result, there was a call for a NATO
conference in Europe in 1968 at which the term Software Engineering was coined. Several
resolutions dealt with the software crisis, and on the positive side, the software crisis led to the
deployment of Software Engineering paradigms.
Just a few years ago, everyone can recall that we dealt with another chaos that put many
managers under tremendous stress and caused the firing of many. The worldwide problem
known as Y2K was both a programming problem and a managerial problem: We could not
The International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, Vol 3, Num 2
represent the year 2000 with 00 since 1900 was represented that way. What were we to do?
Should we write a new program to change all the data from two digits to four? Should we set a
flag for the new data? Yet another problem with Y2K is the year itself, 2000 which was a leap
year that was divisible by 400 (not every 4 years is a leap year, e.g. 1900). Y2K made
programmers with no managerial training run the show, thus taking over managerial duties.
Programmers instructed managers on what to do, often in a compressed period of time, which
seemed to challenge the authority and intelligence of managers.
Now is not the time to refresh our mind as to whose fault Y2K was, or why managers
waited so long to realize that a problem would occur. No one really knows exactly how much
time was spent to deal with this crisis, either directly or indirectly. In addition, the Y2K problem
and its aftermath was calculated to cost trillions of dollars. We are still paying for it. The trillion
plus dollars have been spent by businesses on Y2K compliance, liabilities, and lost productivity
due to computer crashes. Managers had to rethink and set survival strategies for the future. What will be the next
technology crisis? Should we wait for problems to occur and then tackle them? Why was the
Y2K issue not addressed at an earlier stage? Even if Y2K wasn’t preventable, involvement of
executives and managers with programmers at a far earlier stage would have reduced the overall
cost of Y2K. (Braithwaite, 2000).
Web Chaos, Spam, Spim, Spit
The web has become the platform for the e-market. Every business strives to become
web-oriented. What is going to happen if everyone is web-oriented and has a link to everyone
else? Let us examine the worst-case scenario where X e-businesses is connected to many other
M businesses and all the M businesses are connected to the X businesses (many-to-many
relationship). In addition, each of these businesses is linked to many nodes of their own. When
one system sends one request after another to other systems, there will be a point when too many
requests to a system cannot be handled. If we are not experiencing these difficulties yet, let us
simulate a possible scenario with web growth, a kind of fantasy of denial that one's system is
immune and that everything possible and necessary has been done to avoid problems. But
smooth internet use requires a sort of defensive driving where laws and regulations need to be
agreed and acted upon. For example making massive number of phone phone calls using the
internet instead of traditional phone lines can lead to chaos, which would hinder everyone. Less
than the potential for chaos, businesses, no less than individuals, need to look at the negative side
of e-marketing. Spam (unwanted mail, advertisement and messages) is organized and directed by
a program that generates enormous volumes of traffic and often hides its original source.
Similarly, unwanted instant messaging can be generated (SPIM) and Spit- Spam over Internet.
Obviously, these Internet abuse (Spam, Spim and Spit) leads to waste of business time, waste of
space in memory, and more importantly, it aggravates the users and often creates emotional
distress in the workplace (Vinton, 2005).
irus Catastrophe, Phishing, and Trojan Horses
How would many managers react if an employee says, “MY MOUSE HAS A
VIRUS!”? Several probably would look at the person and politely ask, “Are you for real? A
mouse cannot get a virus.” Then s/he may look at the mouse on the desk, click it or roll it to see
if the ball is stuck. One common problem with the mouse in the good old days was the
malfunctioning of the driver program due to interference by some other programs. However,
how many managers are savvy enough to realize a virus could also corrupt a mouse drive. How
many know that a mouse becomes intelligent and sophisticated with its own programming? A
virus catastrophe requires a manager to understand what a virus is and how to handle it. A virus
is a program that can infect other programs or data stored in a file and it can knock down your IT
(Cohen, 1994). Just one virus “LOVE BUG” inflicted an estimated 10 billion dollars damage in
only a few days. Today, a malicious program can act as a real web site and collect information
such as passwords, and ordinary computer user cannot distinguish between the fake web site and
a real web site. Similarly, through Trojan horse, which has been placed in the user’s computer,
the passwords of other systems can be accessed. Managers should be able to observe the size of
programs and the data their companies have stored away for use. There is no doubt that a
manager’s knowledge of programming will lead to better decision-making that will prevent
errors. In case errors occur, managers will be able to understand the error, reports, recover lost
files and be able to communicate with programmers in order to resolve failure and defects, such
as viruses (Highland, 1997). A little understanding of programming can enable managers to take
proper protection measures for programs and data, such as writing to files for back up and
reading from files for recovery.
The Benefit and Impact
Because a manager deals with people, quality, and planning, the decisions managers
make with regard to information technology can play a crucial role in the day-to-day affairs and
also have a consequential impact on the business. It is not enough for a manager to be an end
user or a computer operator. Managers also should actively participate in the information
technology ( IT) decision-making team with programmers and other technical personnel to
decide how IT is configured and customized to its organization's business needs. This requires
managers to have knowledge of programming foundations, and requiring programmers to have a
general idea of company operations, in order to efficiently for each application. With a little
routine update, from both a regularized task should become hassle-free. Nowadays, up-to-date
knowledge of computer technology can give a manager the skills to use the competitive
advantage gained by looking at other organizations' levels of information flow, marketing
strategies and more. Thus a well-prepared manager could see the code of other business websites
by right-clicking the mouse and selecting View Source.
With the increasing demand of the e-market, firms will need managers who understand
the technology, and are able to deal with the possibility of chaos and uncertainty without
interrupting business progress. Programming and its operating issues may determine the success
for some and root of failure for others. Managers will need skills to be able to avoid crisis, to
manage several kind of crisis, recognize a crisis, contain and resolve it, possibly even profit from
the crisis (Augustine, 1995). A manager who is able to handle a simple programming task can
better identify the real cause of problems rather than speculate about it. We conclude that
motivating managers to understand and to participate in programming issues will result in most,
if not all, of the following: higher quality of performance, better time management, reductions in
cost and risk, improved morale, greater respect from subordinate employees, and, finally,
becoming a marketable manager.
Armour, P. (2004). When Executives Code, Communications of ACM, 47,1, 19-22.
Augustine, N. (1995). Managing the crisis you tried to prevent, Harvard Business Review, 73,
Benjamin, R. & Blunt, J. (1992). Critical IT Issues: The next ten years, Sloan Management
Review; Summer, 33, 4.
Braithwaite, T. (2000). Y2K Lessons Learned: A Guide to Better Information Technology
Management. New York: John Wiley.
Cerf, V (2005). Spam, Spim, and Spit, Communications of ACM, 48, 4, 39-43
Cohen F. (1994). A Short Course on Computer Viruses, New York: John Wiley.
Ebrahimi, A. (2003). C++ Programming Easy Ways (Volume I & II). Boston: American Press.
Ebrahimi, A. (1992). VPCL: A Visual Language for Teaching and Learning Programming,
Journal of Visual Languages and Computing, 3, 299-317
Highland, H. (1997). Procedures To Reduce The Computer Virus Threat, Computers and
Security, 16,5, 439-449.
Sutcliffe, A. Mehandjiev, N. (2004). End-user development: Introduction, Communications of
the ACM, 47,9, 31-32.
Module 1 Class Notes
These are class notes taken by a student I had a previous semester, that correspond with your assignment for this module. They are not necessary but some students find them helpful.